With the demise of the full-size Impala, the 2020 Chevrolet Malibu is now the division’s largest sedan, and as such, must now wear many hats. The Malibu competes with the Honda Accord, Ford Fusion, Nissan Altima, Hyundai Sonata and Kia Optima, as well as the larger Dodge Charger, Subaru Legacy and Volkswagen Passat. To its credit, the Malibu holds up pretty well to most challengers, although its standard 4-cylinder engine is among the weakest in this class, and its advanced driver assist features are optional, not standard. The Malibu’s resale values are better than its domestic rivals, but far behind those of the Honda Accord and Toyota Camry.
On the upside, the 5-passenger Malibu offers one of the best infotainment systems we’ve tested, as well as a full complement of advanced driver-assist features on the top-level trims. Fuel economy is also a Malibu strong point, especially on the hybrid model. And, while some might lament the lack of a V6 engine option, the Malibu’s turbocharged 2.0-liter has enough power to prove even the most stubborn skeptics wrong. If you’re interested in a midsize sedan, it might surprise you to discover that this is absolutely one that deserves a spot on your shopping list.
What’s New for 2020?
For 2020, the Chevrolet Malibu gets a new Redline package, while the Premier model gains a power sunroof and 19-in aluminum wheels. See the 2020 Chevrolet Malibu models for sale near you
What We Like
- Handsome design
- Modern interior
- Comfortable ride
- Large infotainment screen
- Hybrid fuel economy
What We Don’t
- Mediocre base engine
- 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder only available on most expensive trim
- No all-wheel drive (AWD) variants
- Advanced driver assist systems are optional and only on up-level trims
The latest Malibu offers three engines: two traditional gas-powered engines and a hybrid power plant. Most models use a 1.5-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder that touts 160 horsepower and 184 lb-ft of torque, mated to a standard continuously variable transmission CVT). This engine is the best choice for drivers who prioritize fuel efficiency, as it offers an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-rated 29 miles per gallon in the city and 36 mpg on the highway. The Malibu Hybrid offers one powertrain: a 122-hp 1.8-liter hybrid 4-cylinder, which is mated to front-wheel drive (FWD) and a fuel-saving CVT. Gas mileage is rated at 49 mpg city/43 mpg hwy, which places the Malibu Hybrid near the top of the hybrid midsize sedan segment.
Drivers who want more power can upgrade to the Premier’s 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder, which boasts a bulky 250 hp and 260 lb-ft of torque. This engine is mated to a standard 9-speed automatic transmission and earns an estimated 22 mpg city/32 mpg hwy.
Standard Features & Options
The 2020 Chevrolet Malibu comes in five trim levels: L, LS, RS, LT and Premier. The Malibu Hybrid is offered in just one trim.
The Malibu L ($22,990) is pretty basic, as it comes standard with only 16-in steel wheels with hubcaps, Bluetooth, a 6-speaker stereo, power accessories, air conditioning, cruise control, rear backup camera, a tilt-and-telescopic steering wheel, an 8-in driver information display and keyless entry with push-button ignition. Chevrolet’s Infotainment 3 infotainment system is now accompanied by an 8-in touchscreen radio featuring Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, as well as Bluetooth streaming audio.
Next up is the LS ($24,115), which adds General Motor’s OnStar system with 4G LTE Wi-Fi, 16-in alloy wheels, compass and outside temp display and front visor vanity mirrors.
The RS ($25,115) brings a blacked out sport grille, 18-in alloy wheels, a rear spoiler, leather-wrapped steering wheel and an 8-way power driver’s seat.
From there, drivers can opt for the LT ($27,515), which adds 17-in alloy wheels, a power driver’s seat, heated front seats, dual-zone automatic climate control, rear climate-control vents, satellite radio, LED running lights and heated mirrors.
Topping the range is the high-end Premier ($34,215), which offers a luxury-car-like array of features that includes the 2.0-liter turbocharged engine, 19-in wheels, leather upholstery, heated and ventilated front seats, a heated steering wheel, a power passenger seat, a wireless smartphone-charging system, heated rear seats, power sunroof, a navigation system and a 9-speaker Bose sound system.
The Malibu also offers a few options, most of which include features from higher trim levels. Also optional is a sunroof and two different Driver Confidence packages, which tout modern safety gadgets such as automatic high beams, forward-collision warning with automatic braking, adaptive cruise control, lane-departure warning and even a self-parking system.
The Malibu Hybrid ($31,135) is offered in only one trim level. It comes standard with dual-zone automatic climate control, a backup camera, a 6-speaker infotainment system with an 8-in touchscreen, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, satellite radio, Bluetooth and OnStar with a Wi-Fi hot spot. Also standard are 17-in alloy wheels, automatic headlights, heated mirrors, a power driver’s seat, steering wheel audio controls, keyless access and start and 10 airbags. Options for the hybrid include a remote starter, an 8-in navigation touchscreen, a wireless device charging system, forward-collision warning, rear cross-traffic alert, lane-keeping assist, a blind spot monitoring system, low-speed automatic braking with pedestrian detection, adaptive cruise control, front and rear park assist, automatic high beams, a power sunroof, a navigation system, heated leather front seats, heated steering wheel, a power passenger seat and a 9-speaker Bose sound system.
In government crash tests, the Chevrolet Malibu earned an overall 5-star rating, with 5-star scores in the front- and side-impact tests and a 4-star rating in the rollover test. The nonprofit Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) gave the Malibu its highest rating of Good in every crash test except the passenger side small overlap front test, which earned a Marginal rating. The Malibu earned a Superior rating in the crash avoidance and mitigation category.
As for safety features, the Malibu has a lot to offer. All Malibu models offer standard antilock brakes, side-curtain airbags and GM’s Rear Seat Reminder, which helps remind the driver to check the rear seat for children or pets before exiting the vehicle. The latest Malibu also touts a wide range of safety options, from forward-collision warning with automatic braking to lane-departure warning, automatic high beams, adaptive cruise control, rear cross-traffic alert, a blind spot monitoring system and more.
Behind the Wheel
On the road, the 2020 Malibu offers a lot of impressive characteristics. While it isn’t the most engaging midsize sedan — that honor goes to the Mazda6, with the Ford Fusion a close runner-up — we vastly prefer the new Malibu’s driving experience to that of the model that came before it. It’s light on its feet, sporty and yet composed in corners. It also offers high levels of comfort and a cabin that’s well-insulated from road and engine noise.
If there’s one kink in the Malibu’s otherwise excellent design, it’s the rather weak 1.5-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine. At 160 hp, this motor offers less power than any competitor, and even falls behind the engines in some compact cars such as the Volkswagen Golf GTI and the Mazda3. We almost wish Chevy had kept the previous generation’s 196-hp 4-cylinder — which was one of the most potent among midsize sedans, returning 25 mpg city/36 mpg hwy, figures nearly identical to the current model’s.
Other Cars to Consider
2020 Volkswagen Passat — The Passat offers more rear seat room, but slightly worse fuel economy. The Passat’s base engine is more powerful than the Malibu’s standard offering, and its driving characteristics are more athletic.
2020 Ford Fusion — The Fusion is an excellent contender in this popular segment, boasting handsome styling, forward-thinking technology and several available models, including a hybrid, a plug-in hybrid and an AWD variant.
2020 Honda Accord — The Honda Accord remains among the best midsize sedans thanks to notorious durability, a roomy interior, outstanding resale, reasonable pricing and a lot of different variants.
2020 Toyota Camry Hybrid — The Camry Hybrid offers a reliable, familiar package, a roomy interior and better fuel economy figures than the Malibu Hybrid. Unlike the Chevy, the Camry Hybrid offers three trims from which to choose. Like the Accord, the Camry comes standard with a host of driver-assist safety features optional on the Malibu.
Used Chevrolet Impala — If you like the Malibu’s general design and interior but need more space, consider Chevrolet’s larger Impala. Higher pricing means you may need to consider a used 2016-2018 model, however.
If you’re choosing a Malibu, it’s hard not to pick the upscale Premier model. In addition to touting high-end features such as a navigation system and ventilated seats, it also comes standard with some must-haves, including a more powerful 2.0-liter engine, dual-zone automatic climate control and a power passenger seat. Opt for one of Chevy’s Driver Confidence packages and you’re basically driving a luxury car. Those interested in maximum fuel efficiency should check out the hybrid. Find a Chevrolet Malibu for sale